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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Law                                  203
preserved which the king had to speak at the investiture of a
vezir; in the other one we find regulations concerning the duties
of the vezir. In the latter fragment particularly, many legal
rules of general significance can be found. Finally, we possess,
on a stele in the temple of Karnak, a statute enacted by King
Harernheb (1349-1314) against arbitrary actions of officials,
with penal sanctions.
As compared with the Middle Kingdom the administration
has become more centralized. Thus the regulations concerning
the duties of the vezir contain the rule that all 'house-docu-
ments' are to be taken to the vezir to be sealed—a task which
in the Middle Kingdom had been performed by some of the
higher provincial officials. That, however, seems to have been
an exaggeration: it was asking too much of every villager to go
to Thebes if he wanted to sell his house or settle it upon his
children against his death. Thus the only examples we possess
of that type of document come from Thebes, the official resi-
dence of the vezir, and none of these are later in date than the
Nineteenth Dynasty. In its stead a different kind of document
developed, the 'scribe and witness document* which from this
time remained the principal type of document current in Egypt.
As opposed to the 'house-document' it was not sealed, but the
place of the seal was taken by the invariable form of the instru-
ment. It began with the date and ended with the name of the
scribe (which was absent in the 'house-document'). It was thus
protected against later additions and consequently did not re-
quire to be sealed. The drafts of such documents were not
written on papyrus, which was too expensive, but on cheap
material such as potsherds or fragments of limestone, and by
chance many of these have been discovered.
Records of loans of various kinds have also come down to us.
In these transactions the rate of interest amounted usually to
100 per cent, per annum; at the end of each year the interest
was added to the capital and a further 100 per cent, was charged